A late start in planning and scheduling conflicts with other teams has the Deep South Bayou Duals wrestling tournament scaled back from its monstrous 2013 tournament.
Those planning issues aside, Brusly coach Jimmy Bible said he’s content with the field in the tournament’s sixth year.
“We’ve got two schools out of Oklahoma; matter of fact, we have the No. 1 3A school out of Oklahoma coming,” Bible said. “We’ve got some teams out of Tennessee, Alabama that are always tough, Florida teams. Then we got all the top teams in the state. So it’s going to be a killer tournament.”
The tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. Monday at the Baton Rouge River Center, will include 32 teams and will function differently than a typical wrestling tournament, where teams put one wrestler per weight class in a bracket and the wrestler scores points for his team by advancing through the bracket.
The Deep South Bayou Duals is a dual meet and teams are placed in one of eight pools of four teams. Each team in the pool will wrestle the other three teams in single, head-to-head dual meets Monday. The eight pool winners will advance to a championship bracket on Tuesday.
“My kids like this format better,” Brother Martin coach Robert Dauterive said. “This is really where we thrive, I think. Fourteen weight classes, 14 kids head-to-head, that’s where our strength is with our team. It’s our overall balance.”
The Crusaders are the defending Bayou Duals champion, the three-time defending LHSAA Division I state champions and return a litany of state finalists and champions.
Headlining the Crusaders’ quest to another Bayou Duals championship is senior 132-pounder Paul Klein, an Arizona State signee and three-time individual state champion at three different weight classes. If Klein wins a fourth state title in February, he’d be the first Louisiana wrestler since 1968 to win four straight Division I titles.
“I told his mom … ‘I’ll never have another kid like him,’ and I mean that,” Dauterive said. “He’s been great. He’s battling injury this year, but he hadn’t had any drop off at all. He looks phenomenal.”
Dauterive said he planned to rest Klein and a good chunk of his starters until the semifinals of the Bayou Duals to preserve his varsity lineup for the Prep Slam, a nationally renowned tournament in Atlanta the Crusaders will travel to just two days after wrestling in the River Center.
Bible cited Brother Martin among three other favorites entering the tournament — Altus (Oklahoma) and Thompson (Alabama).
Thompson won the Bayou Duals in 2011 and Altus, a seven-time Oklahoma district champion, enters Baton Rouge with two nationally ranked wrestlers.
Two New York high schools will also travel to Baton Rouge, including Phoenix High School, coached by 1980 U.S. Olympian and NCAA career pins leader Gene Mills.
Brusly, the defending Baton Rouge city champion, and unbeaten Catholic headline the local teams. Bears coach Tommy Prochaska said he’s “a little” surprised his team is 21-0 headed in to the Bayou Duals, the toughest tournament he said his group has faced yet.
Senior 138-pounder Mitch Vidrine and defending state champion senior Matt Mire at 152 pounds headline a young lineup just now at full strength and preparing to use the Bayou Duals as a tuneup for the state tournament.
“I equate it to wrestling in the state meet,” Prochaska said. “You’re so focused and so intense, and you have to approach it that way in terms of every match matters. It gets you ready for the state meet saying you have to pick up bonus points because your team needs you. It goes hand in hand.”